Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations (AMO) CE5550 Cessna Citation spotted two scouts on a peak of the Silver Bell Mountain Range near Arizona City, Arizona. Scouts are persons working for criminal organizations that are placed in strategic locations to monitor law enforcement operations. An AMO UH-60 Blackhawk loaded with United States Border Patrol Special Operations Detachment agents deployed to the area and were fast-roped onto the mountain. Both scouts were subsequently arrested.


A reconnaissance flight near Arizona City led to the discovery and raid of a suspected drug cartel scout campsite, one of two such busts in the past few weeks.

Agents with the Border Patrol’s tactical unit then “fast-roped” from a Blackhawk helicopter onto a mountaintop in the Silver Bell Mountain Range Northwest of Tucson, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Wednesday.

After a foot chase that ended about 30 feet from a cliff with a “dangerous and potentially fatal drop to jagged rocks below,” agents arrested the two suspected scouts who were working out of a mountainside cave on May 20. Cartel scouts are tasked with guiding drug and human smugglers from the border to their next destination. In many cases, they spend weeks at observation posts on hilltops or mountainsides.

The raid resulted in one suspect facing federal criminal charges and the seizure of “a large cache of counter-surveillance equipment,” CBP said in Wednesday’s news release.

On May 29, Border Patrol Agents arrested two suspected scouts in the Sawtooth Mountain Range near Casa Grande at an observation post. Agents seized four solar panels, two pairs of binoculars, eight cell phones, two radios, and two radio chargers, CBP said earlier. Both of the suspects are Mexican nationals and were charged with conspiracy to smuggle contraband. One also was charged with assault on a federal officer after struggling with an agent. The suspect was subdued with pepper spray, CBP said. The incident was the third assault on an agent by a suspected scout since April 1.